After redefining the way we interact and communicate via Facebook and revolutionizing the way we consume information and products, the internet is all set to create an orbital shift in the world of education, through MOOC or Massive Open Online Courses.
If you are hearing the term for the first time or are confused about what they really are, MOOCs fall under the category of distance education, but the twist in the tale is that earlier the distance factor in distance education had to be compensated by the self-study or weekly lectures, but with the advent of technology and new developments in the field of communication technology, MOOCs are able to provide its prospective students recorded and live videos of the lectures. So now learners can on a different continent from their instructors and yet participate in a course through a live online lecture.
Similarly many other online mentorship programs, also known as ‘online bootcamps‘, are equipping students with skills – in lesser time than in a traditional college – and happen to be more job oriented, which have now led many students to wonder, “Is my bachelor’s degree really worth it?”
Due to these advances in e-learning and other inherent structural flaws in the traditional education, online education is slowly becoming a different, yet favourable path, wherein people are taking advantage of its low cost and flexibility. Instead of making a choice in haste, prospective students now have to weigh a list of pros and cons before they decide to choose traditional education or online education .
The popularity of MOOCS in India can be gauged by the fact that India is home to 2 largest number of people opting for MOOCs (see ‘MOOCs rising’). So if you are at a crossroad, and having trouble in making a definitive decision, read on to find about this vastly famous alternative, which has been predicted to alter the fundamental paradigm of education.
Source: Scientific American
MOOCs: The First Choice
One thing about MOOCs which is making them extremely popular is the fact that, how ridiculously cheap they are when compared to traditional college education. Websites like Coursera, Lynda, Udacity and many others offer training by the industry experts or professors from top universities. MOOCs offer you the much-needed flexibility that working professionals need, and you can attend the lecture as per your convenience anytime at any place, all you need is a device which has access to internet connection.
MOOCs often end up offering you more practical and hands-on skills and even the knowledge transfer is concise, to-the-point and focussed. The programmes are focused much more on teaching hard and specific skills that will get you a job. Another thing about MOOCs is that these courses keep up with the pace of times; since the courses are not affiliated to any university the course managers are free to alter the course as per the need of the industry, online courses perpetually and quickly adapt to new trends. MOOCs focus on giving you as much knowledge as possible in as little time as possible.
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MOOCs: The Flip Side
Getting educated viae traditional way of going to college is not only about the education – it is more of an experience and undergoing this rite of passage is an essential milestone in one’s life. When you pay for college you are not paying only for your tuition, but you are also paying for your dorms, dining halls, parties, activities, sports teams, fraternities and sororities, clubs, etc. For some students, the actual education is secondary. It is this experience that comes handy in solving real world problems rather than only professional problems.
When you go to college you interact with people and build a network which helps you throughout your professional journey. Furthermore, not all courses can be taught online, such as medicine, pharmacy, engineering, filmmaking, to name a few. All of these streams require a lot of practical work, especially in the labs, which is not possible to deliver virtually from a screen. Lastly, the piece of paper stating your credentials every educational institution offers once you complete a course, holds much more sanctity than the ones given by MOOCs.
Now one might argue that even a degree might not help you in getting a job, but everyone is at least guaranteed to recognize it as a valid form of education. If nothing else, that degree is proof you spent an average of 3/4 years, racked up credits, and earned grades. The acceptance of online courses – socially, academically, and professionally – is developing at a slower pace than expected.
Which is better?
The answer to this question will depend on what you actually want. So before you choose any one of them, think about what course you want to take. If the traditional college experience is something you don’t want to negotiate on, you should invest the required amount of time and money, go for it!
Additionally, if you want to carve a career in the field that MOOCs can’t offer then you have no option other than going to a brick-and-mortar college. For those of you who are already well versed with the know-hows of the job and want to learn or improve a particular skill(s), MOOCs are one of the cheapest and safest bet. It also is a boon for self-directors and entrepreneurs who are willing to skip the lectures and chase their dreams at an unstoppable velocity.
At the end of the day, any course you undertake – regardless of the medium or the duration, will impart you with skills and knowledge, and it is up to you to utilise and implement that knowledge to further your career. The world is rife with success stories of people who rejected or were rejected from the traditional education system, and went onto become trailblazers, and similarly not everyone who graduates from an Oxford or Harvard goes onto become successful.
MOOCs are just a reflection of how information and knowledge exchange is undergoing a change today, thanks to technology, and it is up to you to extract the best from the opportunities provided to you. MOOCs or college, the decision isn’t as important as your conviction to make the most of it. Good luck!
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